I’ve been being asked about my next voyage, my next adventure. I’m rather in a holding pattern at the moment. I have applied for Mexican residency. I’ve made my almost annual pilgrimage to visit a dear friend in Australia, and to hang out at this end of the world, the south coast of Australia. I have, like all want-to-be writers, had plenty of reasons to procrastinate, but looking out over the gray skies on the Southern Ocean, while my friend works all day, I find I excuses make no sense. Now it is pen-to-paper time, or fingers to keypad. My next grand adventure is to discover if there really is a latent author in me, and if I can find the discipline to come up with something worthy.
I have a rough idea of what I am writing (to say I am “writing” is very generous to myself) and the location of my narrator. I also should note that the story will certainly be autobiographical, political, and post-apocalyptic. I guess getting a jump start on November is not a bad idea.
Today I am working on place. My story starts in the Amazon, near to and in the town of Iquitos. Last summer some friends and I spent a week or so in Iquitos and more than 3 weeks in the Amazon. Iquitos, as all the tourist guides will tell you, is the largest city in the world with no land access. You must fly in or take a boat. Iquitos is also famously the setting for Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. He takes a boat. Current interest in Iquitos, though, centers on its prime location for shamanism and ayahuasca, the drug of choice for new-agers, gap year youths and techies. The town, and it feels quite like a town, is the trade center for the indigenous tribes of the region, and has its own large indigenous population. At one time, Fitzcarraldo’s time, it was a rubber baron town and the architecture of the old buildings reflect the tastes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Near slave conditions marked the existence of the indigenous population working for the rubber plantations, and great efforts were, and are, made to pacify them with Christianity, which has been there since the colonial period (another Herzog film, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, chronicles the arrival of the early missionaries). The lives of the indigenous remain precarious and subject to extreme exploitation.
I’ll be researching more about Iquitos and the Amazon, but was hard for me not to go away from Iquitos with a deep sense of its idiosynchronicity with me. I spent my early childhood at the edge of the Everglades, where I would escape, shall we say, family drama. The wildness of the Glades felt safe to me. Iquitos seemed at once totally exotic, and already imprinted on my psyche. One of my first boyfriends was an alligator wrestler, snakes in our backyard were collected by him and resettled in the swamp. Iquitos and the Amazon is where I situate the protagonist as the outer world reaches some sort of collapse (yet to be determined), in primally familiar yet unknown territory.